Biology Department Research
The Marquardt Lab
The Marquardt Lab is interested in how cells regulate the many shapes they adopt in nature. We investigate this mechanism using the budding yeast model system Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Due to the ease of use and simplicity of the organism, experiments can be easily done by students of all levels. We use standard microbiology and molecular biology techniques such as PCR, gel electrophoresis, plasmid cloning, and microscopy to perform all our experiments.
Since cell shape control is a precise network of cell cycle and cell growth machinery, discoveries in our lab can be applied to other fields such as cancer prevention, development, and neurobiology. Some pathogenic fungal species also use regulated cell shape changes to affect their pathogenicity. Being able to use a non-pathogenic yeast species like S. cerevisiae to investigate these mechanisms will allow us to better understand the best ways to target pathogenic fungal species for treatment in patients.
The Grubbs Lab
Nearly all of the activities occurring in my lab revolves around molecular systematics and conservation research on Nearctic stoneflies (Insecta, Plecoptera). Since fall 2018, both undergraduate and graduate students have worked on various attributes on one of these two themes. We have been generous to receive funding from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to support research activities and this will continue with future work through at least 2027. Please feel free to contact me, either in person or through email, if you are interested in joining my laboratory.
The Katz Lab
The long-term goal of my research lab is to identify cellular and molecular mechanisms that facilitate successful neuronal regeneration within the vertebrate spinal cord. Specifically, we examine spinal cord regeneration in the larval sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus), a jawless vertebrate that is in the sister-group to all other vertebrates. After a complete spinal transection, these animals are able to regenerate axons across the injury site and regain full functional recovery of swimming behavior. My current work focuses on exploring the role of the WNT gene family in neuronal regeneration. In addition to molecular mechanisms, my lab works to characterize lamprey behavior before, during, and after successful regeneration.
The Johnson Lab
Research in the Johnson Lab uses field and laboratory experimentation in conjunction with molecular genetic tools to understand local adaptation, speciation, and gene flow using amphibian species as models. We welcome motivated students with an interest in herpetological systems, conservation biology, population biology, or evolutionary ecology. Molecular laboratory and bioinformatic skills are a plus, but not a requirement!
The Sharma Lab
In my lab we are examining the role of phytochemicals in inflammatory conditions (in vivo/in vitro), performing biological synthesis of metallic nanoparticles & risk evaluation of nanomaterials, and working on remediation of environmental pollution using plant/microbial systems.
The McElroy Lab
While my background is in evolutionary biology, much of my current research is biomedical in nature. My students and I use retrospective patient data to look at predictors of health outcomes, particularly in the field of cardiology. This research relies heavily on statistical analysis of large data sets, so is well-suited to helping students develop skills in evidence-based medicine; prior knowledge of statistical methods is helpful but not required.
The Banga Lab
Dr. Banga specializes in microbiology and works with bacterial pathogens. Her research laboratory is focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms of pathogenesis during Legionella pneumophila infection. L. pneumophila causes respiratory infections by infecting alveolar macrophages that leads to Legionnaires’ disease in immunocompromised individuals. The bacterium upon invasion releases an array of bacterial proteins to hijack multiple different host cellular processes to survive and replicate inside the cell. Banga lab investigates the function of some of these proteins during the infection using microbiology, molecular biology, cell biology and biochemistry techniques. The lab also explores interplay between these proteins and antimicrobial strategies to control bacterial infections.
The Schulte Lab
Our group uses a conservation behavior approach to reduce human-wildlife conflict by studying the behavioral ecology of mammals such as elephants and cetaceans (and in the past beavers and manatees), specifically their modes of communication (especially chemical), reproductive patterns, and social systems. We use an understanding of behavior to facilitate positive human-animal interactions. We have investigated animal behavior in other mammalian species but also with a background on coral reef biology, plant-insect interactions, and more!
The Smith Lab
The primary focus of research in the Smith lab is the sensory biology of fish hearing. We examine the auditory system of fishes in terms of anatomy and ultrastructure of the ear, and measure hearing sensitivity using electrophysiological recording. Projects in our lab examine the teleost auditory system in biomedical, environmental, and ecological/evolutionary contexts.
The Emani Lab
Dr. Chandrakanth Emani's research interests are in plant therapeutics, phytoremediation, plant genetic transformation and molecular evolution of protein domains involved in cancer and other diseases. Specifically, Plant extracts from basil, ginger, mint are being explored as complementary and integrative phytopharmaceutical treatment options to treat cancer. Also, phytochemical effect on apoptosis, stress response, and cell cycle is being examined using Yeast as a model system. Genetic transformation research in basil and mint with the reporter gene GFP seeks to establish plant transformation systems to manipulate metabolic pathways to increase the production of medicinal compounds. In silico analysis of phytopharmaceutical enzymes and molecular evolution of the non-neuronal acetylcholine aims at using bamboo as a reference and tracing the origins from a probable ancestral precursor in silico. Phytoremediation research involves utilizing transgenic sorghum and pine plants to dispose salt wastewater from oil fields.
The King Lab
Dr. King's lab studies bacteriophages, viruses that infect bacteria. Bacteriophages, the most numerous biological entity on the planet, have provided critical insights into understanding the genetic code, gene regulation and virus-host interactions. Since bacteriophages are natural predators of bacteria they have practical applications such as biocontrol agents and as therapeutics to destroy antibiotic resistant bacteria. Dr. King studies bacteriophages the control gene expression through a process called RNA-mediated transcription antitermination. He also studies the ecology and diversity of bacteriophages. Students who work with Dr. King isolate new bacteriophages from the environment, characterize their morphology by electron microscopy and determine evolutionary relationships by analyzing genomic sequences using a variety of bioinformatics tools.
The Ashley Lab
My laboratory investigates the life-history costs and benefits of the sickness response in wild vertebrates. We attempt to understand the proximate and ultimate causes that lead to variation of sickness behavior using songbirds as a model species.
My lab is currently investigating these sleep interactions in mammals and birds. The first project investigates the hormonal and vascular mechanisms that affect inflammatory responses to sleep loss in C57BL/6j mice. This project is currently funded by the Kentucky Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network (KBRIN).
The second research project aims to understand how birds respond to sleep loss. Many migratory species will undergo sustained sleep loss during migration. Are there physiological costs of extended wakefulness in birds? My lab is currently assessing the immunological responses of Zebra Finch (Taeniopygia guttata) to acute sleep loss. Currently, we are developing assays to assess pro- and anti-inflammatory gene expression using RTPCR following experimental sleep loss.
The Srivastava Lab
The Srivastava Lab is interested in understanding the contributions of a specialized form of Extracellular Matrix (ECM) called the Basement Membrane to normal development and disease pathogenesis. Several projects in the lab are aimed at understanding this problem. We are also interested in deciphering the role of proteases during normal development and disease conditions like cancers. To this end we have demonstrated the involvement of Matrix Metalloproteases and a Cathepsin L in normal development of fly organs as well as in invasive cellular behavior.
The Philips Lab
Three main groups of beetles are the research focus of members of the Philips lab: spider and anobiid beetles (Ptinidae), cave carabid beetles (trechine Carabidae), and dung beetles (Scarabaeinae). We do descriptive work naming new species and creating new generic names and use molecular and morphological data in our phylogenetic studies elucidating their evolutionary history. Data includes single gene sequences as well as Next Generation Sequencing techniques (3-RAD and ultra-conserved elements). Studies on cave beetles to understand their temperature and humidity tolerances and ecological work on dung beetle diversity and abundance have also been a focus for baseline data to document the effects of the climate crisis. Work on the Ptinidae also includes investigations on their microbiome including both bacterial and fungal symbionts as well as viral phage that attack Wolbachia bacteria that are present in most taxa. Our studies of the evolution of these groups are done in many poorly known areas on the planet. Most recently field work has been conducted in Chile and Peru but previous expeditions in the past 10 years have taken place in countries located in West and Southern Africa, as well as Angola, and Cameroon.
The Carl Dick Lab
My research interests center on the inter-relationships of ectoparasites and mammalian hosts. Most of my work has been with a highly specialized group of Diptera (true flies) called bat flies. Bat flies are obligate, blood-feeding parasites of bats worldwide, and are found nowhere else. These flies have evolved numerous morphological, physiological, and behavioral adaptations to their parasitic life on the bat’s bodies. These adaptations include a reduction of eye complexity and structure, a reduction of wing structure and functionality, the development of specialized setae and ctenidea (combs) to help keep them on the host, and a specialized reproductive strategy where females nourish the larval stages internally and give single births to "prepupae." Because of their intimate relationships with bats, bat flies provide a model system for studies in evolution and ecology. Recently, I have also begun research at WKU’s Green River Preserve, in order to understand relationships between wild rodents, ectoparasites, and Borellia burgdorferi, a symbiotic bacteria that sometimes causes Lyme Disease in humans.
The Stewart Lab
Our research is focused on gaining a molecular understanding of how the human cell divides billions of base pairs of DNA, and how these complex processes are carried out to maintain and protect our genome. Particularly, we focus on the multifunctional, single-stranded DNA binding protein CST. This protein complex is essential in several DNA maintenance pathways, including DNA replication, telomere maintenance, DNA repair and activation of the DNA damage response. Moreover, mutations in CST have been linked to several genetic diseases, pulmonary fibrosis, and cancer. Therefore, our research not only provides important insight into how our genomes are maintained and protected but also how loss of these essential pathways promote human disease. To accomplish our research goals, we use a variety of molecular and cell biology techniques, such as fluorescence microscopy, Western blot, molecular cloning, and flow cytometry.